Numerous reports and media studies posit that more than previous generations, millennials (21-34yr olds) prefer large cities, dense walkable urban centers, and rental apartments to suburban homes or rural locations. This would present significant challenges for companies based in rural areas who need to attract the best and brightest talent, particularly highly educated STEM professionals who are in high demand in the job market. In response, many rural and suburban-based companies including GE, Kraft-Heinz, and SC Johnson are opening satellite offices or moving their headquarters to large cities with the goal of better attracting and retaining talent and fostering innovation through greater opportunities for collaboration.
Fortunately for companies for which relocating is not an option, a closer reading of demographic data paints a less dire picture. According to multiple in-depth studies: while 62% of millennials do in fact indicate a preference for walkable dense urban areas; overall 36% of millennials think of themselves as suburbanites and 26% as small town and rural folks. And while the majority currently rent, more than 92% expect to own a home in the future (70% in next 5 years) with the vast majority preferring detached single family homes. In fact, Deloitte studies have found that much of the evidence that supposedly indicates unique millennial preferences instead reflects holdover effects of the Great Recession, and that the crisis simply delayed millennials’ ability to start families and buy traditional homes by several years. Older millennials with families are showing housing preferences somewhat similar to their predecessors with 48% preferring suburban homes and 14% preferring rural homes.